Tag Archives: church and state

Prince of Peace, God of War (2007)

Hello Readers,

I recently stumbled across this documentary Prince of Peace, God of War (2007) that might be helpful for those curious about the Anabaptist belief in practicing pacifism and the non-violence of Jesus in peace-making. This film contrasts this view with the “just war” position held by many evangelicals.

I don’t know how I’m just now discovering this film. Check it out! It’s well worth your time. Watch and listen with an open heart and an open Bible.

What do you think? Do the arguments for “just war” hold up? According to the life and teachings of Jesus, is there any room for Christians practicing violence? What do you believe?

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

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Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (2 of 7)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”  Jesus, Jn. 15:18

In the introduction to this blog series, I listed seven reasons why the world system hates Jesus. As I stated previously, I have decided to use these seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus. I’m addressing the first two in this post because they are so closely related.

Let’s be honest, many who profess Christ today have simply not understood the reasons why Jesus was seen as a threat to the world in which he lived. In many evangelical churches you will find that there is mostly an emphasis on his birth, death, and resurrection (e.g. Christian holidays).

This is no doubt a result and lingering effect of Christendom—the merger of church and state which began in the 4th century AD. When “Christians” choose the sword and political power, the life and teachings of Jesus must be spiritualized or ignored altogether, since Jesus doesn’t support it.

Many evangelicals in America have attempted to embrace the world and Christ (1 Jn. 2:15-17). The only way to embrace the world and Christ is to change Christ. It is a Christianity that shapes Jesus to fit an agenda and perverts true discipleship at its core (Matt. 5:38-48; Jn. 13:34-35).

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” John 12:47-48 NIV

Jesus demands a complete commitment to discipleship (Matt. 16:24; Lk. 5:11; 12:53). It’s not very popular these days to even suggest it, but it’s true. Jesus draws the line in the sand and says, “Follow me.” Because if you don’t follow the authentic Jesus, it has consequences for the age to come.

When the life and teachings of Jesus are stonewalled in order that our faith might fit secular agendas, or to accommodate our sin, the gospel is rendered powerless and ineffective in its purpose to bring all nations (ethnic groups) to confess him as Lord and King (Phil. 2:10; Rev. 3:14-21; 5:9).

Christ’s command was to make disciples of all nations, thus calling them out of the kingdoms of the world and setting them apart into a holy nation called the church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Pet. 2:9). Right here. Right now.

Jesus called this radical revolution… the Kingdom of God.

1. Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God

It was the central focus of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. He said the Father had sent him for this purpose (Lk 4:43). It’s the Son of Man in Daniel 7, coming to give the Spirit to those that would receive him.

“The time promised by God has come at last!” The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mk 1:15 NLT

Repent. Jesus is saying that we must stop, turn, and move in the direction of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is what it looks like when God is running the show. And what exactly does that look like? It looks like Jesus loving, serving, and dying for those that crucified him. It always looks like Jesus.

But first we must repent. We must turn from our own way. Turn from the world system of power-over others. Turn from a world of greed, hate, coercion, violence, sexual immorality, and all forms of self-gratification.

It’s called sin. And it misses the mark of God’s good will for the world.

Everyone must regularly repent in order to follow Jesus and join the Kingdom revolution. Why? Because we’re broken. Because the world is not presently what it ought to be. And like gravity, the world system constantly presses against you. Repentance is the way to defy it.

Repentance is an act of defiance against all that opposes God’s reign and rule being known in our lives, and in the world.

Jesus defied religious and political powers with his “good news” about the Kingdom that was already breaking into this present evil age with his arrival. He upset the so-called natural order of things.

Jesus rejected the image of a sword-wielding Messiah, and told Pilate that his Kingdom is “not of this world” (Jn 18:36). He said that Satan is the sinister culprit behind the kingdoms of the world (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Therefore, grasping for political power was a fool’s errand (Matt 4:8-10).

The early church believed that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and Caesar is not. That’s good news for those who recognize that this world system is spinning violently out of control, void of life and headed for destruction.

It’s good news for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. It’s good news for those who see their need for a Savior, and acknowledge that no government or yoga meditation is going to sort out the mess. We need help from above.

It’s good news if you aren’t invested in the power-over methods of the kingdoms of the world. It’s gospel to those who recognize their spiritual poverty, and are willing to repent for new life—eternal life in Christ.

But like those still plugged into The Matrix, this message of the Kingdom of God threatens those dependent upon the world system for life, security, and a sense of purpose. Those who are happy with the way things are, with themselves and the world, aren’t going to like the coming Kingdom.

“The establishment of God’s kingdom means the dethroning of the world’s kingdoms, not in order to replace them with another one of basically the same sort (one that makes its way through superior force of arms), but in order to replace it with one whose power is the power of the servant and whose strength is the strength of love.” N.T. Wright, How God Became King, pg 205

Jesus said you must be “born again” to wake up to the reality of God’s Kingdom at work in the world (Jn 3:3). Only then can you begin to discover the power of the upside-down Kingdom. Repent and believe the good news!

Just be aware that this Kingdom revolution is a threat to those that love the world system. They may hate you for it. They hated Jesus.

He was crucified for proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

2. Jesus Was Not Patriotic

I’m entirely bewildered by how so many evangelicals don’t understand this aspect of Jesus. If you have seriously examined the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus is calling people to leave their former allegiances, there is no way to miss this. Jesus was not patriotic. Boy, this really upsets the applecart.

No matter how you slice it, patriotism goes beyond an “appreciation” for the good of one’s own country and heritage. It is love for a kingdom other than God’s transnational Kingdom. It’s like sharing your bed with a harlot.

Patriotism sets up an idolatrous fortress in the human heart. It demands allegiance—forming thoughts and priorities that are antithetical to the gospel.

“Patriotism” has always been a deceptive term—infused with counterfeit virtue—meant to cover up the idolatrous nationalism that it breeds. It’s tribalism, plain and simple. The gospel simply does not allow it.

Patriotism says, “We are special. We are the good. God is on our side.”

No doubt that Yahweh had to put up with this tribalism in the OT to a certain extent. But even then we can see God working within the ANE framework in order to bring his covenant people out of this worldly kingdom thinking (Gen 12:1-3; 1 Sam 8:7; 1 Chron 22:8; Isa 42:6).

Ultimately, Israel’s story, which is part of the church’s story, teaches us that worldly kingdom power, with all its violence and corruption, fails to bring about God’s redemptive purposes in the world (Ps 11:5; Isa 2:4).

This is the very thing that Jesus was rebuking in his proclamation of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God doesn’t come about through law or violence, but instead by love of neighbor and enemy (Matt 5:38-48).

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. Jesus, Matt 5:46-47 NLT

It’s a peaceable Kingdom that transforms the inner man. It moves forward in love. This radical love doesn’t stop at the border. It reaches across imaginary lines on a map. It rejects tribalism and calls for a new world order.

Jesus declared that the new nation that God was forming would be made up of Jews and Gentiles (i.e. multiethnic & multicultural). Therefore, the Kingdom calls for equality and diminishes ethnic boundaries (Lk 4:24-30).

Jesus greatly offended the Jewish people because of this vision of the future. It didn’t jive with their “we’re the greatest nation on the planet” attitude.

They loved their tribalism and hated him for suggesting that they really loved the world more than God and his Kingdom. There was no room in their patriotic hearts for the King of the cosmos and his transnational love.

You know the rest of the story. The Jewish leaders brought it to the attention of the Roman Empire that Jesus proclaimed himself a king and called for a kingdom that was juxtaposed to the euangellion of Caesar.

Jesus was crucified for his treasonous, unpatriotic words and actions against the glory of Rome. He was handed over by his own people in part because they hated him for not sharing their love of ‘God and country’.

The world will hate those who follow in his steps.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the next post:  3. Jesus Was Not Religious.


Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?

Children using the Bellamy salute of 1941.

I grew up like most white evangelicals in the American South. Being a Christian in the Bible Belt meant that it was common to regularly fuse Jesus with nationalism. Unfortunately, it’s taught in churches everywhere and rarely questioned.

I can remember reciting the pledge every morning in public school right before a “moment of silence.” And of course, I’ll never forget pledging to the Bible, the Christian flag, and to the American flag at Vacation Bible School. Nationalism was a big part of my childhood and adolescence.

I don’t recall ever having seen my faith in Christ as being incompatible with a zealous patriotism. That’s of course until I read Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon early on in college. That’s all it took to get the wheels turning. I then began rethinking Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

I seem to remember that this was at the height of my patriotism, around the time of the bombing of Baghdad in 2003.

After reading Bonhoeffer, who believed no nation’s flag belonged in the church, I began to reconsider the oft-neglected Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I began to ask myself some scary questions.

Like… what if Jesus really meant what he said?

Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation seemed to mark a major turning point in my thinking. I also thought that Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship was sobering. I read several other works by Anabaptist thinkers, even visited with a plain Mennonite. Those were some intense times.

All of this happened within the last SBC church I served in as minister to students and education. I began teaching what I was learning, and I encouraged those in my sphere of influence to find a new identity in Christ and pledge allegiance to the Lamb.

I taught through enough of the Sermon on the Mount to prompt young people and a group of adults, on their own initiative, not to participate in the upcoming July 4th patriotic service. Their lack of enthusiasm was obvious to the entire church. And while I had purposely taken my vacation that Sunday, what transpired there naturally fell back on me and my ministry.

The very next Sunday I was broadsided with, “What’s this we hear about you teaching people not to say the pledge?”

The truth is that I never told anyone not to say the pledge. What happened that Sunday when the flag was marched down the middle aisle was the result of a small group of Christians connecting the dots. The events that followed resulted in my resignation and exodus from vocational ministry.

I don’t regret it. It has been a defining moment in my journey with Jesus. And it has shaped me for the next season of ministry to the Body of Christ.

Read “How Worship of the American Flag Changed Everything”

Please stop and consider how we evangelicals have been conditioned not to see any conflict with nationalism and Christian discipleship.

Will we allow another generation of our children to be taught that America is the hope of the world, or will we tell them the truth about a King whose Kingdom is not of this world, but is for this world?

The following video purposely provokes us to rethink nationalism.

The US flag code has declared the flag to be a living thing. Do you see anything wrong with Jesus followers pledging allegiance to a flag that represents a worldly kingdom? Would you consider this idolatry?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Romans 13: The Patriotic Version

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1 Everyone must give full support to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The government that exists has been established by the Almighty.

2 Consequently, he who rebels against the government is rebelling against what God has divinely instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. a

3 For rulers hold no threat to those who do what they deem as right, but for those who do what they deem as wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then pledge your full allegiance and do not ask questions, then he will protect you.

4 For the government is God’s servant to do only good. But if you do wrong, be very afraid, for the government does not kill and blow people away for nothing. The government is God’s servant, an agent of truth, justice, and the American way for all those who need democracy.

5 Therefore, it is necessary to fully support the government, not only because of the fear of being blown off the map, but because everyone would despise you if you didn’t.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the government is God’s missionaries, who give their full time to spreading the gospel of God’s peace by violence and oppression in the name of democracy.

7 Give everything you have to the government because “Caesar is Lord.” If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor then honor; if killing for the government, then kill for the government. b Freedom is not free!

8 Let some debts remain outstanding, especially if it is for your comforts and hedonistic lifestyles, for he who kills for the sake of worldly comforts has fulfilled the law.

9 The commandments, “Do not have only one wife,” “Do not leave your family helpless,” “Do not be content,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Do what thou wilt in the name of love.”

10 Love means you may have to kill your neighbor. Therefore this kind of love is the fulfillment of the law.

11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our freedoms are always being threatened by the axis of evil that have breached the peace on our sacred soil.  12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us vote the Democrats out of office with their secular laws and place conservative Christian Republicans in their rightful place of power.

13 Let us behave decently, as in the days of our forefathers, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in treason and rebellion. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the red, white, and blue as the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to live like Christ in every way. c

footnotes:

a This does not apply to the American Revolution. The Word of God does not apply when chains of tyranny are placed upon free people who have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.

b Our own Lord Jesus said we are to “give to Caesars what is Caesars.” Give him your taxes and your whole being for his worldly kingdom purposes. The Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world are one. War is a necessary evil. It must be done. We should be proud we killed people for our freedoms, but we should not feel like we have to talk about the gruesome effects of war. We should be proud, but we should find little pleasure in killing innocent civilians. If you are feeling guilty and ashamed for your actions just read Augustine’s Just War principles. “Blessed is the man who lays his life down for his brother in arms.” There is power in the blood of soldiers and in the blood of Jesus.

c 1 John 2:6 does not mean that we should really live like Jesus. Some people believe we should live like Christ and the apostles, but this is a common misconception. There is no way we can live like Christ. Therefore, we conclude that we try to live like Jesus as best as we can. This is where we learn to compartmentalize our faith and not become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Praise God for the illumination of our forefathers and their documents (The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, the Jefferson Bible, and the writings of Benjamin Franklin). We reject any claim that the God of our founding fathers was the god of deism. These men were good men that read their Old Testament and the history of the Holy Roman Empire. If the Son has set you free . . . you are free to do whatever you want in the name of peace.

 

This was first published in Christian Ethics Today, Issue 65, p.8


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